Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Many Guitars of Jimi Hendrix

Stew Williams
I am dedicating this article to my childhood friend Stew Williams. We met in junior high school. Stew played drums, and I played guitar. We started a garage band with several other friends. Stew went on to have a successful career as a radio talk show host, where he shared his big personality with his listeners. He passed away on August 16th and he is missed by his many, many friends.

Jimi Hendrix Experience Xavier University Fieldhouse March 28,1969
I got to see Jimi Hendrix perform at the old Xavier University Field house in Cincinnati, Ohio back in March of 1968. I went to the show with a group of friends including my good buddy, Stew Williams.

Jimi did two shows that evening. I attended the late show and had to sit through some boring hippie light show production for about 45 minutes. Finally Jimi came on stage from the left, while Noel Redding and and Mitch Mitchell came on from the other direction.

Hendrix at the Xavier Fieldhouse 
That night Jimi was playing through two Marshall 100 stacks. Noel Redding had two Sunn amplifiers backing his bass. While waiting for Hendrix to take the stage a roadie was placing his foot pedals. Little did I know the ‘roadie’ was Roger Mayer, the electronic wizard who created Jimi’s effects.

Hendrix started out on a white Fender Stratocaster and played a couple of songs; then a string broke. In this era a guitar tech would run up on stage and hand the star another perfectly tuned guitar.

However in 1968 when the string broke, the show was stopped while Hendrix took off the old string and put on a new string. He played a few more songs and the string broke again.

Seymour Duncan with Hendrix
The show was once more interrupted, but this time someone from back stage brought him out a white Fender Jazzmaster. Jimi hooked it up and wailed through several more songs and the show closed. At the time, I had no idea who the tech was that brought Jimi the Jazzmaster, but it turns out the guy that brought Jimi the Jazzmaster was Seymour Duncan.

I learned this from an article in Vintage Guitar Magazine that I read years later. Ever since that night I was fascinated with the guitars that Hendrix used. I assumed he only liked Stratocasters, but here he was playing a Fender Jazzmaster. And it turns out that Hendrix had a bevy of other guitars that he used throughout his career.

Jimi with his Supro
His first electric guitar was an inexpensive Supro Ozark model that his father gave him back in 1959. Supro was the brand name used by the Valco company to sell their guitars and amplifiers. They also produced products for the Montgomery Ward Company under the Airline brand and Sears under the Silvertone brand.

Hendrix with Danelectro guitar

When Jimi’s Supro guitar was stolen, he purchased a red single pickup Silvertone/Danelectro guitar, model 3021. He named the guitar Betty Jean, after his current girlfriend. Hendrix played this guitar through his time in the Army.

After finishing a stint in the United States Army he saved up enough money to trade his Dano in for a brand new Ephiphone Wilshire. This guitar had twin P-90 pickups, a solid mahogany body and a glued in neck.

Jimi got a gig playing guitar in the Isley Brother’s band. During this 9 month period he purchased his first Fender guitar; a brand new blonde 1959 Duo-Sonic. Sometime in 2010 this guitar was auctioned off for $246,000. In 1959 the Duo-Sonic sold for not much more that $100.

After leaving the Isely’s, in 1964 Hendrix got job as the guitarist in Little Richard’s band. For this job Jimi purchased a sunburst Fender Jazzmaster.

Just before Jimi became famous he used this Gretsch Corvette at the 1967 Curtis Knight recording session. He also owned 1960’s model Gretsch Anniversary guitar.

When Jimi arrived in the U.K. word got around about his talent. Well known band members told each other, “you have got to go see this guy.” It was around this time that Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones gave Hendrix a dark coloured Fender Jaguar with dot inlays. Jimi also owned another Fender Jaguar that had block inlays. This block inlay guitar was auctioned off in 2011 for $25,000.

A white Mosrite Joe Maphis Double neck guitar caught Jimi’s eye at Manny’s Music in NYC. He purchased it and was rumored to have used it on the recording of Spanish Castle Magic.

This guitar was featured at Seattle’s EMP and has since turned to a cream colour due to age and the type of lacquer that was used.

White Strat
It was not until 1966 that Jimi Hendrix got around to purchasing a Fender Stratocaster. This first one was purchased, with the help of his girlfriend, from Manny’s Music. It was a white 1964 model with a rosewood fretboard. And this became one of the many Stratocasters that he would use in The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Most of his Strats were purchased new and his preference was black or white bodies with a maple fretboard. Hendrix could have purchased a “lefty” Stratocaster, but he preferred to flip the guitar over so the controls and tremolo bar would be on the top.

During this era, musicians were trashing their guitars, amps and drums as an added effect for the show. During the March 1968 show I went to, Jimi bashed his guitars headstock into the Marshall, but apparently was saving more serious guitar damage for a larger show.

The first time he became known for setting a guitar on fire on stage in March of 1967. This was at the Astoria Theater in London. Hendrix burned up beautiful 1965 Fender Stratocaster. Tony Garland, Hendrix’s press agent scooped up the remains and placed them in the garage of his southern U.K. home.

In 2008 Garland's nephew put this guitar up for auction and it sold for $450,000.

There was another instance of Hendrix setting fire to a guitar. This occurred at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. Once again this was amid 1960’s Stratocaster. The remains of this instrument were given to Frank Zappa by Hendrix roadie, Howard Parker. Frank kept it as a decoration on his studio wall for a long time and then had it restored. 

In the early 1990’s his son, Dweezil took possession of the guitar. Probably the most well know instance of Hendrix setting fire to his Stratocaster was at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Some people in attendance claim that Hendrix changed guitars and used a much cheaper guitar as the burnt offering. Tony Garland claims that burning the guitar was an idea hatched by Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler. The Monterey guitar sold at auction for 237,000 pounds in London in 2012.

According to Jimi’s last girlfriend, Monika Dannerman, Jimi’s favorite guitar was a black 1968 Fender Stratocaster with a white pickguard. After he died the guitar she kept the guitar secure at her home until her death in 1996.

Danneman revealed afterwards that Hendrix had played this guitar on the night of his death. The guitar is now either with the Danneman family or in the possession of Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth, a long-time friend of Monika. It was last seen in public on the December 3rd 1995 in London.

A 1966 Fender Stratocaster guitar was given to Jimi’s record company Anim Limited.

Somehow, one of Jimi’s roadies, James ‘Tappy’ Wright took possession of this guitar and eventually sold it at auction for $360,000.

The provenance of this guitar is interesting, since it is said this was the Stratocaster Jimi played it at Monterrey International Pop Festival in 1967 before switching to a different less valuable guitar to which he set on fire.

The guitar that is said he set fire to, during the Monterey performance was a 1964/65 white Fender Stratocaster. Jimi hand painted designs on the body, in the style of his friends, The Beatles. We are told this is the guitar that he ignited.

There are claims that this 1966 Stratocaster was Hendrix’s favorite guitar. It is obvious though that this is a different Strat, featuring rosewood neck instead of maple which was on the Black Beauty.

Possibly the most viewed and memorable guitar Jimi played was the 1968 white Fender Stratocaster he used at Woodstock in 1969. This guitar had the larger head stock design. It was completely stock and is said to be one of Jimi’s favorite instruments.

He practiced on this guitar in hotel rooms and played it on many occasions. The guitar is currently owned by Paul Allen of Microsoft and can be seen at the EMP Museum in Seattle Washington.

After Hendrix became famous he purchased other guitars that were not Fender Stratocasters. Perhaps the most well known is the 1967 Gibson Flying Vee guitar was originally plain black. The psychedelic body paint job was done by Jimi himself. He played it on the concert in Paris during his 67/68 tour – among others.

Hendrix Flying Vee
It was also featured on a few of his songs including All Along The Watchtower and Little Miss Strange. Jimi gave this guitar to his friend Mick Cox in 1969, and it later ended up with David Brewis of Rock Stars Guitars.

At that point, the guitar lost its original paintwork done by Hendrix, but it was successfully restored/replicated in 1999.

Check out the WEM amps

There was a 1969 Gibson Flying Vee that was custom built by Gibson specially for Jimi in 1969. All of the hardware is gold plated, and this guitar is left-handed and equipped with a tremolo bridge. Jimi played it during the Isle of Wright concert on the song Red House.

1955 Les Paul Custom

He owned a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Custom that was purchased in Nashville in 1962 by Hendrix and his friend Larry Lee. This was long before he became famous. Hendrix played it for some time in 1968 and 1969 usually only for the song “Red House”. A week before his Woodstock performance Hendrix invited Lee, who had just returned from an Army tour in Vietnam, to play at the festival with his new band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows.

Larry Lee with 55 Les Paul
At that time Lee didn’t have a guitar so Hendrix gave him back the Les Paul, which Lee played during the Woodstock set. This guitar is now at EMP museum in Seattle.

Hendrix's 1956 Les Paul

Jimi also owned a 1956 Les Paul Custom that he played during a May 1968 performance at the Fillmore East Theater in New York City. This guitar is owned by the Hard Rock Café in Chicago.

Hendrix owned a mid 1950’s Gibson Les Paul Special painted TV yellow. Jimi was seen using it backstage at Madison Square Garden while hanging out with the Rolling Stones.

1967 SG Custom

His 1967 Gibson Les Paul/SG Custom guitar is recognizable as he played it on the Dick Cavett Show in 1969. Jimi also played this guitar in Stockholm, Sweden during that same year.

Hendrix ES 345 at EMP

This beautiful white guitar has three Gibson humbucking pick-ups, instead of two seen on the most of the SG models. Hendrix was also seen playing a 1960’s Gibson ES-345 with a Bigsby.

Jimi also owned a 12 string Zematis acoustic guitar that he used on “Hear My Train A Comin’” was a part of the film recorded in 1967 called “See My Music Talking”.

In 1969, Jimi bought a 1968 Martin D-45 guitar from Manny’s Music shop in New York, and composed on it in his apartment in New York. The guitar was bequeathed to Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell after Hendrix’s death. It was then sold in 1992 to guitar collector Dave Brewis, who later sold it to Experience Music Project.

Jimi owned another Martin D-45 ended up with Noel Redding, who kept it in his house in Ireland until his passing in 2003. Chris Dair was at his house around 1998/1999, when he had the opportunity to play Jimi’s D-45. Noel kept it at his mother’s home for years. The whereabouts of this instrument are unknown.

Epi at Bonham auctions
In 1967 Hendrix purchased an Epiphone FT79 for $25 USD. He brought this guitar with him on his first trip to London. His girlfriend, Kathy, says that he would sit on the toilet and play this old Epiphone. He used it to compose songs. Like many of us, he liked the echo one can only get in a tiled bathroom. She goes on to say that when Jimi was working on a song, he would pick up this guitar and then get a Stratocaster to work out the riffs and arrangements for the song.

This is how he came up with his version of All Along the Watchtower. This twenty-five dollar guitar was sold in 2001 for $77,000. There are a couple other guitars that Jimi owned, but were rarely used.

The first is an Acoustic Black Widow guitar. These were made by The Acoustic Company to go along with their amplifiers. His was made by Bartell of California. In fact it may be a Bartell guitar. These guitars were sold under the Bartell logo and the Hohner logo as well as the Acoustic logo. Because of the F hole, this is probably a Bartell.

The other guitar is actually a bass guitar made by Hagstrom Guitars. This is an eight string Hagstrom bass that Jimi used on a King Curtis recording session.

It was later used by Noel Redding. Redding was seen in Hagstrom guitar advertisements with the eight string bass.

Prior to using Marshall amps, he used Fenders. From 1965 to 1966 he was using a Fender Twin Reverb.

In 1967 Hendrix was becoming the next big thing and s
subsequently signed a contract with Sunn Amplification and used their their 100S Coliseum amplifier with Sunn 100F cabinets that contained one 15” JBL D-130 and a JBL L-E 100=S driver horn.

This powered 4 speaker cabinets. Sunn gave him whatever he needed, but Hendrix ended the contract.

He went on the first Experience tour using Fender Dual Showman amps with all the settings at 10, so the amps burnt out, due to the stress and had to be replaced.

Hendrix with 3 - 100 watt
Marshall Stacks

Then he discovered Marshall amps, which he used until his death. He usually linked three 100 watt Marshall heads with six double speaker cabinets.

Marshall 100JH

Marshall built a signature hand-wired Super 100JH amplifier that was based on one of the amplifiers that belonged to Hendrix. Estimates say he probably went through at least 100 Marshall amplifiers.

Jimi Hendrix’s effects were designed by Roger Mayer. He began using the Octavia Fuzz around 1967 when it was still a prototype. He used this on his first big hit; Purple Haze.

Jimi also used a Univox Uni-Vibe pedal which had two built-in effects; vibrato and chorus. It came with a separate pedal to control the speed of the rotating speaker effect.

He also made use of the V848 Vox Clyde McCoy wah-wah pedal. The Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face was probably the effect that we most associate with Jimi Hendrix. He used this at every venue he played and on all of his recordings.

Here is a most interesting link about the recording session for All Along The Watch Tower.